Saturday, October 11, 2014

Next Steps

From Overview to Key Learnings, it could only lead to Next Steps!

This is the last post of this blog, but hopefully not my last post on trekking and hiking. I have already planned for a trek to ABC in April of next year and am thinking of signing up for Chadar trek coming February. So yes these are my immediate next steps...but I know you are not interested in my next steps. 

Here are next steps for those reading this blog. If you ever wanted to do a trek, you must consider EBC. It sounds tough but it is not - EBC is one of the most luxurious treks possible with all the lodges and tea houses along the way. You don't have to carry luggage backpacks - all you need is a day backpack - porters carry most of the load. You don't have to sleep in tents - all lodges provide you rooms with bed and blankets. And except for Lobuche and Gorakshep, you can get attached toilets too. Hot showers cost but they are available (including Gorakshep). Wifi too - paid but available at most places. NTC connection works a most places except Lobuche. Can it get any easier if you want to trek? Not really! 

Only thing you need for this trek, in addition to gear I had listed in post titled "Key Learnings", is a love for trekking. Don't do EBC if your aim is to just tick it off your bucket list. Yes, reaching EBC was important to me but I enjoyed the journey as much as reaching the destination. I had as much fun coming back to Lukla as I had while getting closer to my goal. Don't do EBC or any such trek if you can't handle lack of clean beds or attached toilets. Remember there are only 3 modes of transport in these places - foot, animals and chopper. And it's every expensive to make even basic things available - so don't expect all the comforts that you are used to. Infact, once on this trek, you will soon find out how little you need to survive and function! We have made our lives unnecessarily unhappy by running after things we don't really need. I was at my happiest when my N-cell connection stopped working and when I decided to not pay for wifi. Yes I did miss hot showers and clean restrooms (hygiene after all can't be compromised for ever) but I didn't miss my bed or other comforts of my home. 

The other thing you should keep in mind while booking such a trek for the first time is that you should try avoid packages as much as possible. And here is the reason why. We paid INR 63000 for the 12 day trek but it didn't include expenses on water or tips to porters and guides. It also didn't allow for individual rooms or rooms with attached toilets at all places. We had to pay extra every time we chose single occupancy rooms or when we exceeded the quota of number of nights with attached toilets. We also had to pay for tea consumed mid morning and also for soup during lunch. I ended up spending another INR 30,000 on these additional expenses. Lot of times PK and I shared a meal, and that means the trekking agency had to pay less as against the budget, but those savings were not given to us back in form of free tea or soup. 

So now when I am planning ABC trek, I have already told the agency that I want to pay for all costs on actuals and I will pay a commission for their efforts. In addition, I realised that we didn't need guides AND porters. Porters know the route as well as guides do, so for next trek I am not taking a guide. Nima, in my opinion, was not really required for the trek. He, honestly, did nothing but yes he did put together a great team. Mingmar, Pasang, Karma, Lakpa - all amazing people. Without them PK wouldn't have made it to EBC!

In addition, I am also reducing porter cost by reducing the number of bags. PK & I plan to fit both our stuff in one duffel bag, which implies that we can do with just one porter for upto 3 people. Budgeted this way, the cost of trek is 35% lesser than the package offered by the agency. 

One last tip before I sign off from this blog - After Kathmandu you cannot withdraw cash and credit cards don't work either. Even in Kathmandu you have to pay NR 400 for every ATM withdrawl and 4% additional charges if you pay using credit card. My advice - carry cash from India. But only in INR 100 denominations because anything larger is not accepted. Also, if possible, carry some cash in USD as well - any denomination works (1 USD = 100 NR). It helped that I had extra cash on me in USD that PK could use to pay for the horse rides. Had we all carried more cash, she could have been on that 4 minute flight from Namche to Lukla instead of Nima. 

And if you still have more questions, you know how to reach me and I will be more than willing to answer them. Till then, I will dream about my next trek and you should start thinking about one too!

Back to Kathmandu

We woke up sad - who would want to leave the beautiful mountains for dirty, polluted, crowded cities? But it was time to get back to reality - however ugly it may be. As usual I was up before the cook and demanding masala tea before leaving for the airport. Around 5:45 am, Nima got a call that plane has left Kathmandu so we started for the airport - just 5 minutes away. 

Our porters carried the bags to airport, including the ones left by the 3 members who had already reached Kathmandu the previous day. The bags couldn't make it yesterday in time for their flight so they were being transported as cargo today. Lukla airport has no x-ray screening so after manual security check of our luggage and back packs we proceeded to boarding gate. 

Soon we had 4 air-crafts landing one after another - if the weather permits about 60-70 flights take off and land between the two airports everyday. While our luggage made it to our flight, other bags were on different planes - but since the departures from Lukla were just a few minutes apart, we didn't have to wait much at Kathmandu airport for other bags to arrive. The others were already in the same hotel as before (Encounter) so PK and I also checked in there. 

The group had done some shopping and sightseeing the previous day, and they were planning some more of it today but PK wanted to go to Pashupatinath temple again, so we split and PK & I offered prayers at the temple while rest of them went to Darbar Square. The plan was to meet for lunch afterwards but PK & I were too tired (trek the previous day, early AM start today) so we came back to Thamel area, had a good lunch with another bottle of red wine and went back to hotel to rest.

Evening all of us went for drinks at H2O cafe/pub. As long as you don't plan on using the rest room, the place is fine. But honestly I didn't care much for the pub. PK was tired of all the walking she had to do in order to reach this place, I was also tired and wanted to crash, so we left early, grabbed a cab and went back to hotel. 

Next day we had an uneventful journey back - from Kathmandu to Bangalore (via Delhi). After all the excitement build-up for months, all the fun and tension and drama during the trek, it felt like a pretty lame ending!

Last day of the trek

Day 12 began with excitement about the chopper ride that 3 members were about to take. They were accompanied by Nima because we didn't have enough cash on us to pay the chopper and hence Nima was to pay for the ride by borrowing money from his aunt at Lukla. The group paid Nima after reaching kathamandu. This is why we lost the 4th passenger seat meant for PK.

Chopper took off at 6:30 am and PK on horse & I on foot left Namche at 6:45 am along with Mingmar & 3 porters. Because of the descent the horse was slow so I started walking alone. On the way I met with this young girl who was also on her way to Lukla   Apparently she was returning to Kathmandu from home and was on foot for last 6 days! 

She and I got talking and soon the descent was over. Somewhere along the way one of us slowed down and I was walking alone again. At 8:12 am I reached Sagarmatha national park checkpost and enquired about the distance (measured in time) to lunch venue - Tok Tok. The gentleman asked me my nationality and then answered "2 hours". This was the second time someone had asked my nationality before telling me the time to destination. I said if I were to tell you that I have reached here from Namche in 1.5 hours, would your estimate change? He immediately said that I would reach Tok Tok in one hour. Looks like we Indians have reputation of being slow :(

And guess what, I was in Tok Tok, sharp at 9:12 am!!! But I couldn't locate the lunch venue and Pasang was atleast half an hour away and PK was another 30 minutes out. So I waited on a bench on the road. There are lot of wooden and stone benches all along the route meant to relieve weary porters of their loads while standing up. 

A young chap saw me sitting alone and probably wondering about my crazy curly hair, sat next to me and started chatting. He was wondering if I was lost, he was concerned why was I trekking alone and then curious why I didn't have kids :). He kept me company till Pasang showed up at 9:52 am. We then walked to the lunch place near by and waited for PK, Mingmar and other porters to arrive.

Around 10:30, everyone had reached lunch place. PK was limping badly now but she was happy. While we ate, we watched a young kid lying in the sun in the hayfield next door. She got some sort of mat, put it down, turned it over, removed her shoes, cleaned her feet of the sticking hay, put her jacket down as a pillow and lied down face up with arms behind her head. And soon she started dancing while lying down :) - PK and I were jealous of her! No care in the world, just her, hay and sunshine! 

We left Tok Tok at 11:42 am - exactly 2.5 hours after I had reached there. I continued walking alone. During last 30 minute I ran into the girl again who I had met on start of the day. The last 20 minutes felt really hard. The weather had turned bad - raining mildly, the rocky steps were wet and slippery and I was tired. I was very gratedul when I completed the last ascent without any incident. 

By 2 pm I reached Lukla checkpost where I called Nima to get the TIMS card needed to check me out. The check posts help keep track of tourists and they are expected to check in and out as they trek through the region. I was again very proud that inspite of my fibromylagia I had competed the trek under 5 hours (walking time). Mingmar had predicted that it won't take me more than 6 hours of walking. Infact had I not stopped for lunch, I could have reached Lukla before noon. 

Our lazy guide took his time coming down and then we went to have a coffee at one of his relatives' place. Soon we heard a horse down the road and there was PK on Shetty (we had managed to find a mangalorean horse in Nepal!)

PK was happy because she had finally managed to impress Dogzilla. Start of the trek when we landed in Lukla, she encountered this dog in front of a coffee shop. She tried "talking" to it but the dog refused to pay her any attention and moved its head the other side every time PK tried to make eye contact. Some attitude, huh? Today PK saw the dog again and for some reason it was in disheveled state and looked mightily impressed (PK's opinion) by PK or the horse may be. Overall PK was thrilled that she could show off in front of Dogzilla :) In her words "woh kutta hi nahin kameena bhi tha"!!!!

We both settled in at Tara Lodge for the night. After sometime we decided to explore the market again. The rain had stopped and it was mist all around us. Very quite and beautiful! We saw this Illy Cafe on the way and decided to try their cafe mocha and chocolate croissant. The key reason I entered the place was because of free wifi :)

The coffee was great and the croissant was exceptionally good. The place has nice wicker furniture and is really cozy. I would recommend it if any of you crave for a good coffee when in Lukla. 

Evening,  before dinner, PK and I wanted to celebrate last evening of the trek. So we picked up the only red wine bottle that Tara Lodge had. It was a 2009 merlot from a South Australian winery. And even PK, who is not into red wine, loved it.  Somehow we got really lucky (and drunk) on that wine!

The porters also had some local drinks (fermented millets in boiling water). Nima advised PK and I to hand tips to porters on the group's behalf. I added my unused down jacket to the tips for Pasang, PK gave her unused down jacket to Karma and she gave additional money to the light footed, almost 16 Lakpa. Both Karma and Lakpa had helped her a lot during her trek. 

We told Nima that Mingmar is too senior for us to tip him and that we would hand his tips to Nima in Kathmandu with a thank you note. 

Happy and content at finishing the trek, we retired for the night as we had 6:15 am flight to Kathamandu the next day 

Friday, October 10, 2014

The breakdown

Day 11 started with questions around PK’s ability to walk. She herself was in no mood to trek in pain but horse availability at Deboche was an issue so it was decided that she and Mingmar will check for horse at Tengboche monastery (20-30 min climb from Deboche)

I again left with the porters as I wanted to get to Namche by 1 pm in order to withdraw cash from the bank for the horse rides that were planned for today and the next day.  The rest 3 were to be guided by Nima.

I started around 8:40 am, the first 20 minutes were not so steep ascent but for some reason they felt really hard. Looks like I had spent all my mental energy to go to EBC and had none left for return climbs. Once we reached Tengboche, the descent began and soon I was missing the climb. The 40 minutes descent was very hard on my knees and toes, but then I found my rhythm and started enjoying it. By 9:40 am we had reached the river and now another steep ascent awaited us.

This one really took my breath away – my hamstrings and glutes were already hurting due to steep descent and I found this ascent to be one of the toughest one even though we had lost significant altitude by now. I kept asking Pasang about how much longer will the ascent last and he patiently kept answering me in minutes. An hour later the toughest part was over and I picked up pace and started enjoying the trek again. This was a hot day and I was losing water due to sweating but my hydration pack came handy and I didn’t lose any time stopping to drink water.

I reached Camp de Base sharp at noon – again very proud of my performance. 3 hour 20 minutes was very close to what Mingmar had predicted. He had said I would reach Namche in 3.5 to 4 hours. The porters had not yet arrived so I ordered lunch and waited for them to turn up with luggage and provide me direction to the bank. Around 12:30 the porters arrived, they had their lunch and then Pasang accompanied me to the bank only to find the bank closed and ATM down.

I had no idea where PK was or how far the rest of the group was so I decided to rest, I told myself I will close my eyes for just 5 minutes and I woke up only 2 hours later when Pasang banged on the door to inform me that PK has arrived with Nima. I was confused as hell…PK so soon with Nima? Hadn’t she left with Mingmar? Where are others if Nima is here already? Apparently, they were able to rent the horse at Tengboche and PK & Mingmar caught with Nima & 3 others at the river. Then Nima decided to accompany PK and Mingmar stayed with the group – phew…I finally got it!

An hour later rest of the group arrived in not so great spirits – they were all really tired by the trek including PK because descent makes it harder for the rider to stay on the horse. She was tired of holding the saddle and her ankle hurt due to all the jerking motion. When I asked how will she handle another horse ride tomorrow, I was informed that at lunch time group wanted to consider helicopter as an alternative to trek from Namche to Lukla.

At about 4:30 pm we were all in the dining hall having tea, when the same member who was vocally upset about the inability to take a group photo at EBC, started making comments about how I am not part of the group anymore. It was all because I had decided to walk alone to and fro EBC and again today to Namche. I also lost my cool because it had been 2.5 days since EBC and he was making snide comments ever since. I told them that since I am already not considered part of the group, I would rather walk the next day instead of paying USD 200 for a 4 minute chopper ride. 

I didn't like the idea of chopper in the first place, but had agreed to go along with the group's decision. Now I didn't see any reason to do that. I love trekking and I was actually looking forward to the walk from Namche to Lukla. For PK it made sense to take chopper as the cost of horse was also USD 200 and she was in enough pain already to sustain another day's ride on the horse.

After this was settled that 4 of them will take chopper, we all went to a local Chang shop, had some rice beer, continued drinking back at Camp de Base and the discussion came back to chopper because now we had another issue - there were only 3 seats for the passengers which meant that one more member needs to drop out. PK graciously decided to drop out and take a horse again.

I couldn't help wonder why no one gave up his/her seat to PK when she is the one who needed chopper the most. Some members were upset that we didn't take a group photo at EBC. But where was the group when PK was injured? No one else thought of any solutions, no one else offered any help. Where was the group when I got headache while walking to Gorakshep and I was told "you will not go to EBC"? A team means that no one is left behind and we had all agreed on that. So why still plan to go to EBC at the time only I was sick? Why go to Kalapthar if no one else could? Why leave PK alone at Deboche and proceed to Dingboche? Why leave KP to descend alone so close to destination and go to base camp without him? 

Everyone (except PK) was upset with me because I walked faster than the group and hence mostly walked alone. Why is that an issue? Trekking is to be done at one's own pace - and I didn't make this statement - this was made by someone who is horribly upset with me because of walking faster than the group. 

I always waited for group to catch up and in fact that's what gave me my sinus attack on way to Gorakshep. I never complained about waiting and when 2 members of the group had to wait one day - just one day - when Nima was with me and Mingmar with PK, they got extremely angry because they had to wait to get directions. If PK is too slow for you and its OK for you to leave her behind then it should be OK for me to continue at my pace. Why expect me to slow down when you couldn't slow down for PK? 

This trek made me realise that friends don't always make best trekking buddies. In fact, one should be careful doing such treks with friends because this trek has caused serious tension with my friend with whom I had planned this trek to begin with. Before my next trek, with friends or otherwise, I would ensure that expectations are listed and vetted upfront. That would help reduce sources of unnecessary angst when we are all stretched thin because of altitude, physical tiredness and unfamiliar surroundings. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Beginning of the end

Day 10 – we left Peak XV at Lobuche around 8 am and reached Thukla tea place at 9:30 am. The descent to Thukla wasn’t easy for PK but she was in good spirits. As usual we had masala tea and started for Himalayan Lodge at Periche - our lunch venue.

Per original plan we would have made to EBC & back to Gorakshep on Day 8 and would have stayed overnight at Periche on Day 9. Since EBC happened on Day 9, Periche as a night halt was out of question (so we stayed at Lobuche) and now Periche was too close to our starting point so we settled on Rivendell lodge at Deboche for the night halt. It made sense both in terms of distance from Lobuche and our fondness for the place.

Himalayan lodge at Periche is much better than Moonlight lodge that we stayed at in Dingboche and altitude difference between two locations is not significant. So I would suggest that you stay at Periche (instead of Dingboche) en route from Deboche to Lobuche.

We left Periche around 1 pm and started towards Deboche. Soon I was walking alone and since the return route was known to me, I didn’t care for a porter or a guide. I kept walking at my pace listening to music. At Pangboche, about an hour before Rivendell, I saw our duffel bags on the road side and instantly knew that porters were around. I was reassured that I was on right track and proceeded alone and reached Rivendell at 3:45 pm.

By 4 pm, I was in the shower. Some things that we take for granted in our everyday lives are luxury in these places. I was so enamored at encountering a working flush again that it brought a smile to my face to see water rush out at the push of a lever! Since my last shower was 4 days back at Dingboche, hot running water felt heavenly to my weary bones and I didn’t leave the bathroom till the water ran cold. After this amazing shower, I wanted a change from the masala tea, so I decided to try the “by glass” slightly sweet red wine

Rest of the group except PK was in before 5 pm and there was no sign of her till 6 pm. Though Mingmar was with her, I started to get anxious and insisted that Nima locate them using his phone (as our N-cell connections were useless) Finally PK reached around 6:45 pm – in immense pain and close to tears. However a hot shower coupled with a glass of red wine helped lift her spirits. I was already down 2 glasses of the same sweet red wine and now relieved that she had made it in one piece, I just wanted to crash and retired soon after dinner.

And we made it...

Day 9 - the sun was shining, there were no clouds and the peaks of the range looked like molten gold as they shined under the rays of the morning sun. Had we gone to EBC the previous day, we would have only seen clouds...but today the sky was bright blue - a perfect backgound for the white beauties all around us!

KP was in worse shape than before and he decided to descend back to Lobuche and wait for us there. Nima (our lazy guide) was all too happy to go back down with him. PK had already left for base camp at 5:30 am as planned (with energy bars and Pringles to have on the way) and I was down at 6 am harassing the cook for tea and breakfast. 

I consulted with Nima on whether I should have Diamox or my sinus medication. He advised I should  take sinus medication as that had helped the previous day. I had my breakfast, settled accounts, had my sinus medication and was ready at 6:30 am. The remaining two members of the group were still having breakfast when Pasang (my guide to EBC) and I left for the base camp at 6:35 am.

Pasang took me through a shortcut which felt more like a shortcut to hell. He was like a rabbit hopping on those big boulders, and here I was - trying to stay alive and not fall through the big cracks! Pasang offered to carry my back pack and I very thankfully handed him the same. After that the trek became a bit easier for me. 

The last 15-20 minutes are the trickiest because one has to walk on Khumbu glacier to reach the EBC flag point. The glacier is strewn around with rocks and boulders and melting ice makes them very unstable. Its not advisable to rest on this stretch and you should walk as fast as you can in order to avoid any rocks or boulders that may move while you are on the glacier. PK's foot wouldn't allow her to cross the glacier so she decided to wait just before the glacier began and had pringles :)

Since Pasang is young (and hence willing to take risks) and since I could walk fast, he decided to take me to the flag point. It was an exceptionally sunny day and we could see the ice melting but inspite of all that we reached EBC at 8:30 am where we spent about 10 minutes taking photos and shooting videos. I called my mother (yes there is N-cell signal there!) and I could also hear PK talking to her family and friends on phone from where she was resting.

At 8:40 am Pasang and I started back for Gorakshep. We met with the other two members accompanied by Mingmar around 9:15 am when they were 45 minutes from EBC. PK was already making her way back to Gorakshep with help from two porters. I was in awe of her strength - this last leg to EBC was really tough and she did it with a torn ligament. Goes on to show what all we can achieve if we just put our mind to it.

Pasang and I reached Snowland by 10:05 am - I was really impressed with my pace. 3.5 hours to and fro EBC - for someone who took 5 hours to reach Gorakshep from Lobuche just the previous day, this was more than an accomplishment - this was freaking awesome! 

PK was back around 11 am and the other two around noon. The plan was to have lunch and leave for Peak XV (Lobuche), to spend the night, where KP was resting and recovering. I left with porters around 1:00 pm and the other 3 started a bit later with Mingmar.

At Lobuche, the mood of the group wasn't triumphant because KP was still very unwell and unable to eat, PK was in pain and other two members of the group were upset with me for going to EBC alone in the morning. The expectation, apparently, was that we should have had one group photograph. I, honestly, don't care much for such sentiments but I would have respected this wish if I was aware of it. I was told that I should have known - without being told!!! Well telepathy is not my strongest suit...anyways...what was done couldn't be undone!

We all retired for the night - happy at the thought of getting back to Rivendell lodge the next day - we have had enough of common toilets and bone numbing cold for now! 

Bright sunny morning at Gorakshep

Peaks bathed in morning sun

Couldn't get enough of them

Kumbu ice fall - a closer look

Finally at EBC...Small portion of a peak visible behind mountain on left is Everest

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Worst day of the trek

Day 8 started on a very positive and sunny note, both literally and figuratively, except for one of us who had contracted some stomach bug and hence woken up with fever. He (KP) wasn't able to consume any breakfast because of same reason but felt that he could complete the trek. It was a nice sunny day and we were all excited at the prospects of reaching our destination that day. Since we had crossed 16,000 ft and AMS was becoming a real danger for everyone, we all started the trek at a slow pace which became even slower because we all wanted to take pictures of the beauties that were surrounding us. 

To reach EBC we had one more steep climb left. PK was taking time due to her injury, KP was slow as he was unwell, other 2 anyway liked to walk slow, so again I was ascending the steep climb alone. Once at top, I decided to wait for others to join me. In the meanwhile I got signal on the N-cell connection and I used the time to call family and friends. This wait of 40 minutes soon became the reason that ruined my day. The weather suddenly changed on me, from being hot and sunny to falling snow. By the time I got my jacket and rain pants on, I had been exposed to enough cold wind & rain resulting in onset of my sinus pain. 

Now there were 3 of us in some sort of pain or another, PK with her ankle, KP with stomach upset and no energy as he hadn't eaten anything and my self with throbbing sinus pain. At some point during the trek I was advised to take Diamox because headache is first symptom of AMS. I was distraught with the headache and mental agony over the very high probability of me not making it to EBC (AMS can be fatal so unless symptoms subside one is not allowed to climb higher). So I took the Diamox and we continued the trek. This trek which usually takes 2-2.5 hours, took us 5 hours and by the time we reached Snowland lodge at Gorakshep, 4 of us were in no condition to try EBC that day. 

So it was decided that those of us who feel better next day will try EBC and others would descend. The fifth member was lucky and strong enough to make it to Kalapathar that day (instead of EBC) and we all felt excited that atleast one of us would end up completing both goals - EBC & Kalapathar.

My headache didn't subside and I decided to pop in my sinus medication and lo & behold within 30 minutes my headache had vanished as if it was never there. But even today I am not sure if sinus alone was the reason for my headache.

PK had slowed down a lot as her injury had worsened because of continuous trekking so she decided to leave with one of the porters at 5:30 am the next day - an hour earlier than everyone so that she can be back in time to leave Gorakshep. 

I knew that other 3 members would still be slow for me and I didn't want to risk another sinus attack by additional exposure to cold wind, so I asked another porter to accompany me so that I could complete the last leg at my own pace. I had another Diamox at night and retired early as we were (except PK) to start for EBC at 6:30 am.

Beauties unfolding in front of us

Zoomed in view of Khumbu Ice Fall
Glacier that we had to walk on to get to EBC

Getting closer to goal

Day 7 we all started for Lobuche, it was a slow start for PK because of her ankle injury but we all made it to the only tea house enroute at Thukla about the same time. PK was in pain and the climb was just about to get harder, so we all took our time preparing for the tough one hour that lay ahead.

It was a really steep climb which was made tougher due to high altitude. I continued at the pace faster than the group (thanks to Shawn T) and reached Peak XV lodge around 2 pm. Rest of the group arrived around 40-50 minutes later.

We had lunch at Peak XV and retired to our rooms to rest and recover from the rough and wet climb. Lobuche doesn't have lodges with attached toilets and Peak XV was no exception. The amount of toilet paper and wet wipe consumption went up dramatically for me thanks to these common toilets. There wasn't any hot (or cold for that matter) shower/bath option either. There was this plastic bucket with a tap that held cold water to be used for brushing and washing face/ hands. As one climbs higher, the hygiene and comfort get sacrificed. You can make up for it partially with wet wipes but first thing you want when back in civilization is a hot shower and a working flush :)

Around 6:30 pm we were all back in dining hall to share the heater warmth, chat with other trekkers and have dinner. This was the eve of our climb to EBC and we were excited about the trek to Gorakshep and to EBC the next day. Little did we know that next day would be the worst one for most of us.
View of Ama Dablam as we left Dingboche

A scary river crossing
A lake in distance

Sherpa Memorial on way to Lobuche

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

No moon no light Dingboche

Day 5 - The trek from Deboche to Dingboche was eventless. Post lunch I walked faster with one of the porters for company while rest of the group was walking slowly with Nima and taking pictures. 

We stayed at Moonlight lodge in Dingboche - attached toilets but no running water, only gas shower option at NR 400 per shower, no electricity in the rooms as weather didn't allow solar batteries to charge, no wifi as telephone line was down. This was our first taste of how things would worsen in terms of amenities over the next few days. 

My funny buddy was in Deboche so I was feeling a bit alone but soon I was chatting with a South Korean trekker who had taken 3 months off from work to backpack alone in Nepal without guide or porter. He had already completed Annapurna circuit and was on way to EBC. 

Lack of electricity in rooms and dropping temperatures made us hang around in dining area where a wood/dung based heater would start at around 6:00 pm. Dinner was always served at 7:00 pm so by 8:30 pm I would retire to my room. Except at Rivendell I had been using my sleeping bag and I continued with same here. 

Day 6 - acclimatisation trek to Nagarjuna Peak. Started very well but towards the end weather turned wet and cold so we decided to turn back mid way. We climbed around 1500 ft and came back down to Moonlight before lunch. 

PK reached Moonlight around 1 pm and had lunch with us. She had walked for 5 hours and while she was in pain, she was confident she can make it to EBC. Though Mingmar was worried about descent because that's where she struggled most. She was walking with trekking poles, at places leaning on Mingmar for support and her backpack was carried by a porter whenever possible. 

While I agreed that it would be a very difficult journey to and back from EBC, I knew we can explore horse as an option for the way back. So we kept our hopes up and spent the rest of the evening in same spirits. 
Just as we left Deboche we found this beautiful nook

Yaks...not the friendliest of creatures

Crossing the river yet again

Fastest porter resting as others are far behind

First flag point on the Nagarjuna Peak ~ 15000 ft

Turning point - more than 1000 ft short of the peak

Two crazy women, a patient guide and the farting horse

Day 4 began with some grumblings about horse being late and delaying the whole group. So it was decided that Nima (guide) and 3 members of the group will start sooner and I along with PK (injured party) and Mingmar (assistant guide) will join them once the horse shows up. 

The other group had just left when the horse reached camp de base to pick up its injured rider. So we all started walking together. It was a beautiful sunny day and we could get glimpses of some peaks. Inspite of the injury, PK was in good spirits and was enjoying the horse ride. Soon the horse picked up pace and PK, Mingmar & I separated from the group. We waited at the tea place but soon the rest of the group was far behind again. Eventually we all caught up at the lunch place. 

I am glad I was with PK because at one point the horse owner wanted her to walk as the downward incline was steep. And as accommodating as she is she got off from the horse. I put my foot down and got her back on the horse and ensured that she doesn't worsen her injury. 

After lunch, Mingmar wanted to take another route that is not used by trekkers but is better suited for horses and other animals. Not knowing that it would be much steeper, I decided to join PK and Mingmar on this route. 

It was a really steep climb and took the wind out of me, towards the end of the climb I took out a trekking pole because my legs were very tired. The positive point was that the muddy albeit narrow path was soft on the feet and my soles that were hurting due to walking on stones pre lunch, felt relieved. 

I was of course the trailing member of this horse led group. And on more than one occasion I found myself at the receiving end of the horse's stinking farts. So I started walking faster in order to stay in front of it. At some point as I was catching up my breath, leaning against a rock, sipping on water it crept up close to me and scared the hell out of me. The rest of the group and trekkers from another group had a big laugh at my expense. 

We reached Tengboche monastery around 3 pm. The horse owner didn't want to stop but PK wanted a peak inside so he finally relented and we got to see the beautiful monastery. 

After our brief stop, we continued to Deboche where we stayed at the most luxurious accommodations during this trek - Rinvendell Lodge. It is indeed named after "Lord of the Rings" and has amazing view of the Everest range, if weather permits. 

PK and I shared the room with attached bathroom. It was NR 3500 a day - very expensive compared to other rooms that were NR 200 a day but as I said it was luxurious and totally worth it. 

The place also boasts of freshly baked bread and that was evident from the toasts that were served for breakfast next day. 

PK's ankle was still swollen and it was decided that she would stay back at Rivendell one more day while rest of us will continue to Dingboche. The original plan for all was 2 nights at Dingboche including one acclimatisation day so the idea was that she will join us on our second night at Dingboche. 

She also packed her duffel bag the next day so that porters could carry it along with the rest of the luggage and kept minimal stuff needed to stay an extra day at Deboche. Mingmar also stayed back as he was to be her guide when she trekked alone to Dingboche. 

I felt terrible leaving her alone but she was already feeling bad that she is slowing the group down and I didn't want to add to her misery and hence decided to go to Dingboche with rest of the group 
Views en route Namche to Tengboche

Tengboche Monastery

Inside the Monastery
Monastery to Deboche